By Benjamin Joe
The “Everything NT Festival” is in its second year to celebrate North Tonawanda in a special event. While the event lasts only three hours, it’s packed full of good drinks, good food, an open bar, local vendors, and a basket raffle to benefit the Niagara SPCA.
Originally though, Everything NT was really a labor of love spearheaded by John Gatas, a realty agent and life-long native of North Tonawanda.
“(We started by) creating videos by interviewing business owners,” Gatas said, referring to himself and Kim LaRussa, a local media professional. “Then we started showcasing different events and different kind of things that North Tonawanda has to offer. These are videos that we do, and we don’t charge. It’s a service that I provide as a community service.”
“It’s my way of saying, North Tonawanda has a lot of things that are going on for it and I want people to see the great things that are happening there,” he said.
Restaurants, shops, waterfront, nightlife; these are all attributes of an upcoming community Gatas said he wanted to show everybody.
“It’s just a great, great community and in my opinion, North Tonawanda is the next mini-Renaissance of Buffalo,” he said. “They got a lot of great things happening. The Webster Street District has done some great things. The waterfront, they’ve done some great things. Gratwick Park, Canalside where the restaurants are. They’ve improved the kayaking, the boating ramps since they got grant money, and that grant money is going to continue to doing some more great things for the community.”
“You can’t run until you learn how to walk and what NT is doing right now, they’re taking baby steps, but those baby steps, they’re starting to skip now,” Gatas explained. “Eventually they’re going to jog and eventually they’re going to sprint. Right now, we’re in a skipping/jogging mode.”
As the community evolved, the videos of the community also started to get viewed.
“The first video we did had 6,000 views,” Gatas said. “Then it just started taking off from there. It just kept growing and we went from having no followers, till right now, Everything NT has just about 2,800 followers from 16 to 18 months.”
“None of our videos have gotten less than 2,000 views. Some have even had 15,000 to 16,000 views and have been shard, at least, 100 times,” he said. ”They’re all about being positive, all community oriented.”
Gatas said that since his family came from Lebanon a generation ago. North Tonawanda is where they’ve put down roots.
“My father came over in 1955, my mother came in 1967,” he said. “My father is a barber in North Tonawanda, he’s been a barber at NT at 394 Oliver St., since 1966. So, I just decided to do something for the city.”
But he didn’t want it to just be the videos. The next step was to get everybody together and hold a festival.
“We had about 250 people last year for the first time doing it,” Gatas said. “Me and Kimberly planned it over the course of three weeks, and it came out pretty good. We were very excited about it. This year we have, so far, 16 vendors. We’re going to have basket raffles; we’re going to have 50/50; we’re going to have great food; great drinks; there’s going to be some light music playing. So, there’s going to be a lot of engagement and we’re going to raise money for the Niagara SPCA.”
“To be perfectly honest with you,” he said. “I didn’t do Everything NT to promote my business, it had nothing to do with that, but what I found is that it’s very organic. People are curious of what people do. Organically, people want to know, ‘What does this guy do, other than making videos?’ They’ve realized now that I’m a real estate agent, and I live in the community of NT and I do my business, a good portion of my business in the North Tonawanda/Niagara County market. I want people to know that I promote the community because I believe in it. I’ve been born and raised here. I live it. I breathe it, and if you love my videos then you’re going to love me professionally because I care about you and how you’re going to succeed.”
The event is at 6-9 p.m. Friday, Nov. 15, at The Wurlitzer Building, 908 Niagara Falls Blvd., North Tonawanda. Tickets are $40. More information on the festival can be found https://www.facebook.com/events/936734913351966/ and to watch videos visit John P. Gatas on Facebook.